Meet the Musicians – Nicholas Mulroy

We catch up with Nicholas Mulroy ahead of his appearance as the Evangelist in our upcoming concerts next week.

When did you decide to become a singer? There probably wasn’t a specific timing to the decision. I studied languages at university, and when I spent a year in South America I missed the collective act of music making a lot; perhaps that was when the seed was initially sown.

What would have you become if you had not pursued music professionally? I worry that I’m unemployable otherwise, but I think I might have followed my parents into some sort of educational job. I enjoy the bits of teaching I do at the moment, and those times when you can see or feel something getting through to someone for the first time can be incredibly satisfying, which isn’t unlike something we aim for in performance – a moment of direct communication.

Tell us about one of the highlights of your career to date? That’s a difficult one! I tend not to look back very much (also, my memory isn’t what it was…), and often find that people’s ideas about any given concert can differ hugely anyway. But I work regularly with some extraordinary musicians (very much including the Dunedin Consort), and have been incredibly privileged to hear quite amazing performances of all kinds of things in all kinds of places. There are, of course, certain places where it’s always a thrill to sing – the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam is very special, for example – but the main thing is the connection between the performers, the music and the audience; when you get that right it’s quite something.

Are stereotypes about tenors true? Do you all really want to sing as high as you can? I might not be the best person to answer that.. Though I do think that performing can cause stress in every musician. In Britain the more neurotic types don’t tend to be indulged too much, whereas on the continent I’ve found there to be more concessions given. Having said that, singing tenor can feel a bit like a high wire act (mostly without a safety net!), and there is of course always an element of macho competition in any extreme sport like that.

What’s special about working with John Butt and the Dunedin Consort? There’s always a strong sense of discovery in everything John does – no two performances are the same, and he creates a fantastic working atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable trying new things, and pushing themselves and each to new places with the music. John wears his huge amount of knowledge very lightly, but is endlessly compelling and never fails to shed new light on what we’re performing, more often than not with unusual and entertaining turns of phrase. It also helps that the musicians of the group are all amongst the very best around.

What keeps you awake at night? At the moment, my four month old son, Michael.

What is the hardest thing about performing the Evangelist role you will be singing with us? It’s a fantastic role to sing. In telling the story, a big part of the piece belongs to the Evangelist, and the way Bach sets the story, harmonically and dramatically, is – in both Passions – completely masterful. But it’s not easy! Firstly, it’s long (and the way we do it with Dunedin means that I sing in all the choruses and the tenor arias, too, so not much time off), so the question of pacing is key. It’s not completely clear how ‘involved’ the Evangelist should be: in the St John, for example, it always seems to me that the storyteller is really very close to the action – he could well be the ‘well-beloved disciple’ mentioned – so one has to consider how emotionally bound up with it the Evangelist should be, and to what degree one is outraged or bereaved by what happens. Bach gives lots of clues, though: harmonically you can feel the story ebb and flow, peak and trough as you go through, all of which helps you along the journey of these extraordinary pieces.

Nicholas Mulroy performs the Evangelist with the Dunedin Consort in their Passion tour this coming March.

Passion Tour Dates 2013:

Wed 13th March at 7.30pm Aberdeen Music Hall John Passion Book Now Thu 14th March at 8pm Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow John Passion Book Now Sun 17th March at 3pm The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh Matthew Passion  Book Now Mon 18th March at 7.30pm St John’s Kirk, Perth John Passion Book Now

John Passion – Recording of the Month March 2013 – Gramophone

Gramophone has awarded the Dunedin Consort’s gripping new performance of Bach’s ‘John Passion’ its highest accolade naming it ‘Recording of the Month’ in the March issue of the magazine!

This new recording marks the first time on record listeners can experience the Passion within its original liturgical context and features a star-studded cast including, Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Brook, Robert Davies, Joanne Lunn and Clare Wilkinson.

‘…the increasingly impressive Nicholas Mulroy’s alert, lightly coloured Evangelist strikes a balance in which declamation and lyricism are equally ardent and equally touching, while Matthew Brook is a supple and authoritative Christus.’ Gramophone

Fans of Dunedin Consort will know that director John Butt is a master at using historical context to shine new light upon well-known choral works. Recreated for this recording is a Good Friday Vesper liturgy of a passion performance as it would have occurred during Bach’s time at Leipzig.

‘…naturalness and emotional honesty are what emerge from this tight-knit and perfectly paced ensemble Passion, in which Bach’s complex succession of recitatives, arias, choruses and chorales has surely seldom sounded so convincingly of a piece.’ Gramophone

John Butt awarded OBE in 2013 New Year Honours List

$p.titleWe are delighted to announce that John Butt is to become an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to music in Scotland.

John Butt has enjoyed so far a remarkable career in music. As a scholar, his work has been widely published and is acknowledged to be among the most original and insightful in recent years. Since 2003 his work with the Dunedin Consort has brought him and the company a host of accolades and awards, including both a Gramophone Award and Midem Awards for his recording of Handel’s Messiah in its original 1742 Dublin version. His work with the Dunedin Consort has seen the company expand from a purely vocal ensemble into Scotland’s pre-eminent baroque ensemble, one which is now in considerable demand.

John Butt says

“I am very pleased to receive this honour. It is a boost not only to me but also to the University of Glasgow and the Dunedin Consort. My work with these two exceptional organisations has allowed me to explore issues of research and performance practice in an unprecedented way. I could not have done any of the work that has led to this honour without their support but more importantly without the tireless patience of my wife Sally.”

Those who have worked with John closely will know how richly deserved this award is. His generosity, unbounded enthusiasm and contagious energy have inspired a generation of students, countless professional performers and numerous amateur musicians.    Congratulations John!

Dunedin Consort announces new internal structure

During the last two years, the activity of the Dunedin Consort has grown significantly. This has posed challenges to Dunedin’s management structure, particularly in view of the sharp increase in international profile, and the Board of Directors has been considering how to respond.

In reviewing the current structure we identified the need for strong leadership and clarity of decision making with a sharper focus on the management of the company and on its musical direction.  As a result of this review the Directors have decided that the current advisory roles of “Artistic Director” should end. These will instead be a single role of “Music Director” responsible for advising the Board on the broad artistic strategy. There will be a more senior role of Chief Executive, representing the Board, driving change and delivering all targets set by the Board.   We considered the skills and experience that each of these roles required and as a result, we have decided that John Butt should be the Music Director, and Alfonso Leal the Chief Executive.

Our repertoire continues to expand in the trajectory we have set with plans to perform and record more instrumental music, larger scale oratorios as well as earlier 17th century repertoire. This diversification of the repertoire will result in Dunedin having to build and draw upon a broader pool of artists. Whilst both Susan Hamilton and Philip Hobbs will no longer contribute to Dunedin as Artistic Directors, they of course remain an important part of the Dunedin family. Philip remains a key advisor on the recording strategy and Susan Hamilton will remain very much part of our very distinguished pool of artists.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has supported Dunedin. We would not have been able to achieve what we have without your help. We are fully committed to developing an excellent music company for Scotland and are positive that these plans, with your support, will help us achieve our goals.

Sir Muir Russell – Chairman of the Board of Directors

Cecilia Bernardini appointed as leader

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Cecilia Bernardini as our new leader.  Many of you will already have had the pleasure of watching and hearing her play; I’m sure you’ll agree that her passionate and beautiful playing has greatly added to the performances she has already been involved in.

Cecilia is a highly sought after musician throughout Europe and we are very pleased that she’ll be working closely with John Butt on our future projects.  She says,

“Making music with John Butt has been one of the main reasons for me to want be part of the Dunedin Consort; I’ve rarely encountered a musician who has both such a profound knowledge of music and and at the same time a really fresh spontaneity on the stage.  I have always felt incredibly motivated and inspired by the musicians around me and I look forward to a longer collaboration as leader of the orchestra of the Dunedin Consort.”

You can find out more about Cecilia on her website at

The Wode Collection – Recording Released

Dunedin Consort has joined forces with Fretwork and The University of Edinburgh to explore the musical psalms collected by Thomas Wode.

Wode was determined to record and preserve as much as he could of the music of his time, whether composed by Scots or by English and continental composers known in Scotland.  The resulting collection of songs provides a unique insight into musical life in Scotland in the second half of the sixteenth century.

‘The Wode Collection’ features works by well-known composers such as Thomas Tallis, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Orlandus Lassus, alongside lesser known composers and a host of anonymous works.  The nuances of the pieces are highlighted by the talented Dunedin Consort singers with their celebrated one-voice-to-a-part delivery.  Enter the fascinating world of sixteenth century Scotland in Studio Master 192 quality today.

Dunedin’s Messiah and Matthew Passion – Recommended by BBC Music Magazine

We would naturally recommend our own recordings of Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Matthew Passion, but are always delighted when others agree with us. A special edition from BBC Music Magazine focusing on the lives and essential works of The Great Composers lists both our Messiah and Matthew Passion as the recommended recordings.

Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Matthew Passion represent two fundamental pillars of the Western European music tradition. Our recording of Handel’s Messiah won the Gramophone Award in 2007 for best baroque vocal recording and a MIDEM award. Bach’s Matthew Passion is not short of accolades receiving the best recording 2008 by High Fidelity magazine.

Dunedin’s success on both the platform and the recording market is testament to the passion and commitment of our artists.

Dunedin Consort – #11 – Gramophone’s International Choir Ranking 2010

It is with great pleasure and surprise that we announce that the Dunedin Consort has been ranked as #11 in Gramophone Magazine’s recent search for the top 20 choirs of the world. This follows on from a similar survey last year of the top orchestras in the world, which featured only one British orchestra.

This time British groups dominate the list, with the Monteverdi Choir taking the top spot. Placed ahead of such world-famous institutions as King’s College Choir, the Tallis Scholars and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Dunedin is clearly established as a key player on the world stage. Some might be surprised that we are counted as a choir at all, since the group consists of a constantly changing format of singers and instrumentalists, according to the requirements of the music concerned; the ‘choir’ element often comprises only four or five voices.

Might we even be able to claim that we are the highest ranking ‘non-choir’ on the list?

Linn Records – Label of the Year 2010 – Gramophone

We are delighted to announce that our recording partner Linn Records has won the Gramophone label of the year award.

On Friday 1st October, at the annual Gramophone Awards, Linn was named Label of the Year. For Linn, winning this prestigious award is the culmination of nearly three decades of work, and represents the dedication of a team striving to give the you the best music, with no compromises on quality or support of our artists.   To hear Gramophone’s Editor-in-Chief James Jolly describing Linn as “…the very model of a modern record company”  was, well, music to our ears.

Celebrate with 3 for 2 on all Linn Albums   To help celebrate this momentous occasion, we are offering 3 albums for the price of 2 across all Linn Records titles be it Studio Master download, SACD or even 180g Vinyl; with the offer running until 31st October 2010. Simply use the promotion code 3FOR2 when checking out.   Don’t know where to start? Well, our the award-winning albums below is a good place, or perhaps our specially selected range of highlights.

Previous Linn Award-Winners   Recent Gramophone Award ceremonies have seen many of Linn’s artists singled out for their outstanding recordings.   In 2010 the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Sir Charles Mackerras was a Finalist in the Orchestral Album of the Year category for their album Mozart Symphonies 29, 31 (Paris), 32, 35 (Haffner) & 36 (Linz) whilst Phantasm was a Finalist in the Early Music Album of the Year category for their album, John Ward: Consort music for five and six viols.   2009 saw another two recordings highlighted: Henry Purcell: Ten Sonatas in Four Parts by Retrospect Trio was a Finalist in the Baroque Instrumental Album of the Year category and the Dunedin Consort’s Acis and Galatea (Original Cannons Performing Version 1718) was a Finalist in the Baroque Vocal Album of the Year category.   James Gilchrist flew the flag for Linn at the 2008 Awards with a Finalist nod in the Solo Vocal Album of the Year category for this album with the Fitzwilliam Quartet and pianist Anna Tilbrook, On Wenlock Edge.   Linn’s biggest triumph, prior to being named ‘Label of the Year’ came in 2007 when the mighty Dunedin Consort scooped the Baroque Vocal Album of the Year Award for their recording of Handel’s Messiah (Dublin Version, 1742).  This superb two-disc album was later released on 180g vinyl in a beautiful 3 LP boxed set.   Many thanks to all who contributed to these successes, we will be working hard to bring you more award-winning recordings in the future.

John Butt joins prestigious Council

David Willetts, Minister for Universities & Science, has announced the appointment of John Butt and three other academics to the governing body, the Council, of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Council members are appointed by the Minister for Universities and Science and are responsible for the overall strategic direction of the AHRC including its key objectives and targets, and key decisions about the research direction of the AHRC.

Each year the AHRC provides approximately £112 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from languages and law, archaeology and English literature to design and creative and performing arts. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,350 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

John Butt wins the Royal Academy of Music Kohn Foundation Bach Prize

The Dunedin Consort is delighted to announce that John Butt is to be the fifth recipient of the Royal Academy of Music/Kohn Foundation Bach Prize.

The prize is given annually to an outstanding contributor in the field of Bach performance and scholarship, and John joins a very distinguished roster of winners – Christoph Wolff, András Schiff, John Eliot Gardiner and Peter Schreier.

Commenting on the honour, John said

‘This is great news, not just for me, but also for the Scottish musical scene, the University of Glasgow and, of course, the Dunedin Consort – it’s a huge reward for all our work in cultivating an ensemble not merely of international quality, but as a world leader in Baroque performance.’

Congratulations John!

For more information please see the Royal Academy of Music website.